Posted in | Recycling

Electrochemistry Helps Recycling Lignin into Useful Chemicals

The concept of recycling is mostly linked to the packaging for household products, however, this concept can be extended to the chemistry to make them in the very first place.

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Specific plant components are considered to be a promising renewable source for commodity chemicals. In ACS Central Science, Researchers recently revealed an effortless way that will help break down lignin, one of the most common plant compounds and then recycle it into useful chemicals.

Lignin, a rigid polymer, acts as a space-filler in the plant cell wall. It is considered to be unique among bioresources and when broken into pieces, useful fragments are developed into plastics, pharmaceuticals and various other household products. However, the processes that are responsible to do this are likely to be low-yielding and they usually result in a hodepodge of different compounds. Corey Stephenson and colleagues recognized that the result could be controlled in a better manner by applying a specific electrical potential in an oxidation reaction.

The Researchers used electrical potential in concert with blue light to develop a two-step process that constantly breaks lignin at one particular chemical bond. Their method, unlike several other electrocatalytic reactions, does not include any metals, thus enabling it to become more environmentally friendly and cheaper. The "flow" set-up was also considered to be ideal for large-scale adoption in industry.

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